By Percy Gauguin
The question of animal rights is, like other political issues, thickly steeped in emotional goop. It concerns life and death in a literal and direct manner. Emotions and their goop can be as thick to penetrate for the light of liberation as are dumbness and stupidity. And yet, as goopy as they are, emotions are much more transparent than ideologies. Animal rights and veganism elicit one’s emotional responses without an overabundance of ideological murkiness. On the other hand, the state and capitalism are principally intraspecies affairs, so the ideologists of capitalism must make questioning its workings heretical.
Animal liberation and anti-capitalism have a natural affinity, being both movements strongly against the oppression of life. One of the machinations of capitalism is to hinder the marriage of these two movements, naturally inclined towards each other. Ideological barriers lie between the two, as so much of the complexity of reality is suppressed into artificial divisions and disconnected from itself. The human world is presented, with some aberrations, as a progression towards harmony, towards the universal fulfillment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The world of animal exploitation does not rest on so many lies as that, though, because its externality to strictly human affairs makes it a matter with fewer vested interests.
Human liberation is regarded generally as a more convoluted affair, which is why politics displays itself as a spectacle of complications and deceptions. The problem is complicated by ideologues, and the the chaos of an alienated, mediated reality. Human reality is naturally more complex than the animal’s, but this complexity is deliberately seized upon by ideologues and loaded with ideology. The more confused and deluded one is, the less vulnerable the existing order is to subversion. As I said, I don’t believe animal liberation and veganism are as encumbered by ideological mystifications as capitalism is. But it is essential that capitalism restricts veganism to the non-human, and contains animal liberation within the realm of consumer choice.
In a sense, anarchist communism is like political veganism; but it is not only the rejection and abstention from the meat-farming of capitalism, it is also the negation of it in concrete acts. Only then can it become a liberatory force that is directly present in the world, beyond words and thought. But veganism is still badly trapped within consumer culture, and seems to be affected by the fundamentally capitalist separation of humanity from the rest of the natural world. As life flows equally through all planes of existence, being vegan seems highly limited if it implies only the abstention from meat and other animal products. I think an anarchistic sense of veganism is one in which one adopts, not as an individual, but one within a collective sphere of being, a life-affirming relationship with the entire environment and everything a part of it. This is not an affirmation of pacifism, which devolves oftentimes into passivity. Anarchistic veganism attacks, and destroys the machinery of death, and heals the multitude of life’s dispersed forces, in order to unite them and catalyze them into conscious collective being. Veganism isn’t animal liberation in its current consumerist orientation.
Representing animal liberation as an extremist activity, beyond the sacred realm of consumption, appears as the chief ideological mechanism of carnivorism that does not do much else, besides making invisible the daily torment and execution of animals, from caged parrots to lab monkeys. But capitalism always has been and always will be carnivorous, a system that viciously suppresses other modes of being. The very first ideological fabrication of capitalism was its ‘anti-veganism’: to exclude humanity from the possibility of bestial degradation by endowing it, as if magically, with a totally autonomous will unfettered by social restraint. This lie cannot go unsaid for capitalism to keep on living. That humans are the most sophisticated of domesticated animals is a fact daily veiled by the always productive ideological factory. It precedes any question of diet or relationship to the rest of the animal kingdom, and yet cuts straight through it because veganism is ritualistically defined as a diet, as though food and drink were the only articles of one’s consumption. But as anyone who has been hit in the head by Das Kapital knows, labor power is itself an article of consumption, and it is by no means the capitalist alone who becomes nourished by it. The international division of labor is a great predatory hierarchy of nations. The meat-farming of human beings is hidden just as blatantly as the meat-farming of cows, but it is not enough to show a photo of Chinese workers working sadly in a toy factory. The literal bloodletting involved is almost always in a ‘separate’ event (one of course having no relation to the rest of social reality) such as a riot or a war (a factory fire, for example, is always merely accidental). The cages are the very walls that the workers ‘freely’ come and go between in a strangely clocklike, automatic repetition. In short, our governments have nothing to do with the laborer’s misery; human exploitation is an uncomfortable, but nearly irrelevant fact, because human civilization is ritualistically separated into autonomous elements that never seem to exist in the same highly interdependent reality.
We are up to our eyeballs in ideology and it is a sad thought. One idea spewed out of a fool’s mouth is enough to put bones on the table for another fortunate beneficiary of our world. Thought processes are borne up with the rest of the economic (monster)organism, and focusing on them in a deliberately anarchistic way, which cannot be reduced to program or ideology so long as it is anarchistic, is an act of subversion that aids the liberation struggle. Of course it is not enough, and sometimes it is not ideology at all but indifference, which paralyzes our wills to change. And the best way to shatter ideology is to stop people from staying so indifferent.